EURO Classics: Portugal vs Greece, 2004

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No one would have predicted a rematch in the final when Greece beat hosts Portugal in UEFA EURO 2004's opening game, and an actual repeat of that result seemed preposterous at the Estádio da Luz.

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Context

Watch Greece's EURO 2004 semi-final winner
Watch Greece's EURO 2004 semi-final winner

World champions at youth level in 1989 and 1991, Portugal’s ‘Golden Generation’ appeared destined to win their country's first major title after the likes of Luís Figo, Rui Costa, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo recovered from a 2-1 opening-day loss to Greece to make it to the final. German coach Otto Rehhagel's defence-minded Greece started the tournament as 80-1 outsiders, but defied the odds to eliminate France and the Czech Republic to book their rematch with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side. Could they spoil the party in Lisbon?

Key players

Theodoros Zagorakis: Back playing in Greece after an inconclusive spell in English football with Leicester, the unshowy captain was the UEFA technical team's player of the tournament, leading by diligent example throughout.

Luís Figo: Quick, elegant, skilful, the 31-year-old epitomised Portugal's swashbuckling style, and was at full sparkle in the semi-final win against the Netherlands. The Real Madrid man was ready to captain his team to glory in Lisbon.

EURO 2004 highlights: Spotlight on Luís Figo
EURO 2004 highlights: Spotlight on Luís Figo

Traianos Dellas: The 1.96m-tall central defender was 28 at EURO 2004, and at the peak of his powers in Serie A with Roma. Man of the match in the semi-final victory over Czech Republic, he proved a colossal presence in Portugal.

What happened

The game was perhaps a freer-flowing affair than anticipated, Greece showing a degree more flair than many expected. Portugal still played most of the football, however, Antonis Nikopolidis making a decent save from Miguel as Rehhagel's side worked hard to keep the hosts out of their area.

Pauleta also had an effort blocked after the break before the unthinkable happened – Angelos Basinas swung over a corner and Angelos Charisteas climbed above Costinha to head in from close range. Figo tested Nikopolidis as Portugal pushed for an equaliser, but Zisis Vryzas had a chance to make it 2-0 before Greece withdrew to defend their lead. Rui Costa and Figo were both denied as time ran out.

Reaction

Best goals of EURO 2004
Best goals of EURO 2004

Angelos Charisteas, Greece forward: "This is a unique moment, which many of us may never experience again, and I believe we deserved it. We got this far by getting past very big teams, and today we came up against a very strong Portugal. Despite this, we were able to win the trophy. It's the best moment of my career."

Nikos Dabizas, Greece defender: "[Rehhagel] told us to just go out and win the game, that we had nothing to lose and that we were the winners of the tournament. He told us we were playing against 40,000 people and they were a very good side, and everybody was saying before the game that Portugal would win. Obviously, we proved we are the best side in Europe at the moment."

Luiz Felipe Scolari, Portugal coach: "They won defensively. They won because they knew how to play that way. The Greeks play defensively, and they know how to do it. They are always waiting for the mistake of the opponent. It is very hard to accept it, but we must accept it."

Stelios Giannakopoulos, Greece midfielder: "I prefer to play ugly and win the cup."

Aftermath

EURO 2016 final highlights: Portugal 1-0 France
EURO 2016 final highlights: Portugal 1-0 France

Greece's success was comfortably the biggest shock in the history of the EURO – even more of a surprise than Denmark’s victory at the 1992 finals – with national newspaper Eleftherotypia capturing something of the mood: "Can you believe it? Read our lips, drenched in champagne and sweet Greek wine: Greece are the champions of Europe! They abolished the rules of football, sport, society, gravity and logic." Rehhagel remained in charge until 2010 but never came close to emulating his 2004 triumph.

Portugal eventually atoned for their 2004 defeat by springing a similarly awful surprise on hosts France in the final of UEFA EURO 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo the only player to feature in both games. Perhaps ironically, Portugal's coach Fernando Santos got the job in 2014 after leading Greece to the knockout stages of UEFA EURO 2012 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup (where Scolari oversaw an ill-fated campaign for hosts Brazil).